We took the girls to see How to Train Your Dragon this past weekend, and I have a couple of observations to make about it.
I’ve been thinking lately that, in a world that’s been spoiled by the quality standards set by Pixar (both in terms of storylines and visuals), it’s getting harder and harder to make animated films that hold kids’ (and adults’) attention.
This one did.
If it hadn’t been for all the talking kids (and crying babies – I kid you not; someone brought a baby to a 4:55 matinee and walked her up and down the aisle instead of taking her to the lobby), I don’t think my attention would have shifted from the screen for the whole hour and a half. In fact, there were some sequences (especially those on the water) that I thought were nothing short of stunning, and I remember looking at Hiccup’s face and seeing all of his freckles and really appreciating the animators’ attention to detail.
The story was simple and time-honored (misfit child learns something vital to the survival of his community), but it didn’t feel overdone. I think, too, that the screenwriters hit a lovely mid-point between appealing to an audience that ranges from 5-year-olds to the adults who accompany them. There were a few references that the adults got that went right over the heads of the under-12 set, and there was enough little-kid humor to keep the smaller people laughing (I was particularly fond of Hiccup’s dry sarcasm; the line “thank you for nothing, you useless reptile,” delivered in a deadpan voice, was enough to get the whole Chili clan (ages just-eleven to nearly-48) chuckling).
Finally, the voices were just wonderful – particularly the Scots brogue of both Gerard Butler and Craig Ferguson. I’m also pretty jazzed about the fact that the story writers didn’t go for the cheap and easy way out by having the dragons talk – and by the fact that the animators were able to convey a really impressive array of emotion and communication with the dragons with only facial expression and gesture. I felt like we really got the relationship between Toothless and Hiccup without having to buy that the dragons and the people spoke the same language.
While this isn’t a film I likely would have gone to see without the girls, it IS a film I will buy when it comes out on DVD and will gladly watch again. It’s a fun flick – well worth the price of a matinee and some popcorn. If you’ve got small people in your life, take them to see this film; you’ll both be glad you did.